September 8, 2019

As we prepare for our two parish gatherings for a conversation about our future, there are six clarity questions that leadership on our staff and Pastoral Council have found beneficial. I described the first three of those questions in some detail in last week’s column. This week, I want to unpack the last three clarity questions.

Let me start by briefly summarizing the first three questions and their answers.

1) Why does St. Joseph Parish exist? To nourish our relationship with God so we can go out and bring the Good News to others.

2) How do we behave? We named three core values that commit us to behavior that advances our mission – our reason for existing:

a. we are “All In”
b. we want to have authentic awareness of each other in truth
c. we want to create a community of
    long-term welcome.

3) What do we do? We answer that question by pointing to the summary of our Parish Mission Statement: Love God, Love Our Neighbor, Make Disciples. 

Now, I will describe the last three clarifying questions that we hope can guide us through this process of parish discernment and beyond. Question number four asks, “How will we succeed?” In other words, how will we define success and what strategic filters will we use to identify that success? To answer this question, we have to look at what makes St. Joseph Parish unique.

As we reflected on this question, leadership discerned three areas that we have seemed to value over the years here at St. Joseph. These areas of emphasis create a way for us to assess (through what we call “strategic filters”) what we are doing now and ask if it reflects these unique characteristics of our parish. These three strategic filters are: 1) easy access and accommodating ministries; 2) a dynamic Sunday experience; and 3) providing opportunities to serve.

Let me give an example of how a parish ministry, or approach to ministry, fits each of these strategic filters. In terms of easy access and accommodating ministries, we have worked over the years to implement the archdiocesan policy that baptisms should be celebrated at Sunday Mass. Since 2009, we have constantly assessed how we were helping families to celebrate baptisms according to this norm. We have moved from celebrating baptisms quarterly, to monthly, and now on virtually any Sunday that is convenient for the family and workable in the Sunday Mass schedule. We think families have experienced this as accommodating and providing easy access to this fundamental sacrament.

The second strategic filter of a dynamic Sunday experience incorporates both our long tradition of quality Sunday Mass here at St. Joseph, and our response to the call to make Sunday the center of life at our parish. Family Faith Formation centered on monthly Sunday gatherings, Youth Ministry that meets on Sunday evenings, RCIA that gathers for Dismissal at the Sunday evening Mass, and their session after Mass are a few of the most impactful examples of how Sunday is the dynamic experience that the Lord’s Day deserves.

The third strategic filter, providing opportunities to serve, acknowledges our unique presence in the wider community. We provide opportunities to assist in programs like the Winter Hospitality Overflow Shelter and Project Homeless Connect. We reach out to those on the margins through our St. Vincent de Paul Society and the work of our Life, Justice and Peace Commission. These are just a few of the ways that we as a parish community bring the Good News to others.

The final two clarity questions, “What is the top priority for our parish right now?”, and “What must we do?” are addressed by our process of discernment. The top priority right now is for us to refine and communicate our core values (as described above) and to use our three strategic filters in our assessment of parish life. What we must do is gather as a parish community, assess our current opportunities, and discern how the Lord is calling us into the future.

I am very much looking forward to our two gatherings. The first of those is this Monday evening, September 9th. We will gather for a simple meal in Marian Hall at 5:30 pm, followed by our meeting, which will conclude at 9:00 pm. If Monday evening does not work in your schedule, I hope you can join us in Marian Hall next Sunday, September 15th, from 12:30 pm – 4:00 pm.

The most important thing each of us can do as we enter into this period of discernment is to pray that we will be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and then come to one of our discernment gatherings.

May God bless us as we enter into this process!

Fr. Gary Lazzeroni